Preparing Your Website & SEO for International Expansion

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Chloe Bunce

As your company sets its sights on international expansion, a well-optimised website becomes a critical tool for reaching new audiences. As your digital storefront, your website welcomes potential customers from all over the world. To maximise its potential, it’s important to understand how to optimise your website and SEO strategy for international success, ensuring a smooth market entry and laying the groundwork for global brand recognition.

ROI of an International SEO-Optimised Website

The key benefits of implementing a global SEO strategy and investing in website optimisation often mirror the motivations for the global expansion itself: opening new doors to high-value markets – increasing customer base and market reach. But SEO goes beyond mirroring these goals. It provides measurable results that can feed directly into your broader business development strategy.

Keyword research (a vital stage during the SEO strategy) can help quantify market expansion potential, utilising search volume and competition data to identify regions with active searchers of your solution. This data-driven targeting can help accelerate qualified lead generation and sales conversions.

Compared to other marketing methods, such as tradeshows or paid advertising, an international SEO-friendly website offers the most scalable and cost-effective digital marketing solution for reaching new audiences in new markets.

Like any marketing investment, your international SEO strategy needs to deliver measurable results and demonstrate true business value. We leverage advanced analytics software to track key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most. This includes organic traffic growth from targeted markets, qualified leads generated by region, and, ultimately, conversions that drive sales and revenue. This data ensures you see a clear ROI from global SEO efforts.

Find out more on how Motion Marketing can help guide your SEO strategy.

Considerations of an International Website

The website must be understandable and indexable by search engines in different regions. There are several technical considerations to ensure maximum visibility, including URL structure, content delivery networks and privacy regulations.

Domains and URL Structure:

Localised versions of your website for the target markets can help drive more engaged users. But before you can begin the process of creating localised sites, you must first choose your domain/URL structure. Each approach offers advantages and disadvantages, and the optimal choice depends on what your website platform allows and your overall business objectives. Here’s a breakdown of the three main options:

  • Top-Level Country Domain (ccTLD): This uses a country-specific suffix after the domain name, such as “yourdomain.de” for Germany or “yourdomain.fr” for France. This option provides strong local SEO signals and clear targeting for users. However, it does require managing multiple domains, which can be more expensive to maintain. Content duplication could also be an issue if SEO is not handled correctly.
  • Subdirectory: This option uses folders within your main domain. For example, “yourdomain.com/de/” for Germany or “yourdomain.com/fr/ for France. Subdirectories can be easier to manage than ccTLDs and inherit the authority and ranking power of the domain. However, local SEO signals might be weaker compared to ccTLDs and the subdirectory structure might not be immediately apparent to users.
  • Subdomain: This creates a separate domain prefixed to your main domain. For example, “fr.yourdomain.com” for France or “de.yourdomain.com” for Germany. It offers more flexibility and separation than subdirectories, however, like ccTLDs, they do have their own SEO ‘identity’ that needs to be nurtured.
  • Consider taking your website localisation one step further with Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs). IDNs allow you to use characters from different languages directly in your domain name, making your website more user-friendly and culturally relevant for international audiences.

    International Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

    Expanding into international markets will mean your website visitors will be scattered across the globe. This creates a challenge: there’s no single location for your web server that can deliver optimal performance for everyone. This is where investing in a content delivery network is beneficial.

    With a CDN, you can distribute cached copies of your website content across a geographically dispersed network of servers, ensuring visitors can load your website quickly and efficiently, regardless of their physical location to the original web server.

    Comply with Country-Specific Data Regulations

    Website data regulations vary significantly by country and can have serious implications for non-compliance. Complying with website data regulations can feel overwhelming, but a proactive approach is crucial. Consulting with international legal or data privacy experts can help you navigate the complexities and ensure your global website operates within legal boundaries. Below are some key examples:

    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – Europe: Focuses on user privacy, requiring explicit user consent for data collection and use, and granting users the right to access, rectify, or erase their data.
    • Find out more: Find out more: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/data-protection/data-protection-regulation/
    • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) – United States: Similar to GDPR in spirit, granting users the right to know what data is collected, access their data, and opt out of its sale to third parties.
    • Find out more: https://oag.ca.gov/privacy/ccpa
    • General Data Protection Law (LGPD or Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados ) – Brazil: Inspired by GDPR, it emphasises transparency and user control over personal data.
    • Find out more: https://gdpr.eu/gdpr-vs-lgpd/
    • Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) – China: Focuses on data security and user consent, restricting cross-border data transfers without specific approval.
    • Find out more: https://www.pcpd.org.hk/english/data_privacy_law/mainland_law/mainland_law.html

      These are just some of the common data regulations you need to comply with depending on your target markets. Other considerations include data residency laws, cookie consent banners and data security best practices.

      Bonus Technical Website Considerations

      • Utilise a content management system (CMS) that allows for easy content creation and management of multiple languages.
      • Leverage translation tools but always have human editors ensure cultural accuracy and a natural reading flow.
      • Consider a language switcher on your website for user convenience.
      • Take a look at one of our clients to see how we put this into practice.

        Considerations of an International SEO Strategy

        As well as the typical SEO tactics and strategies that help search engines connect your content to the most relevant user, there are additional steps and configurations required when dealing with international SEO and optimising for global audiences. Localised content is the most influential factor for ranking in new markets but there are some other key areas below:

        Hreflang Tags

        Hreflang tags inform search engines about the different language versions of your website, allowing them to serve the most relevant version to users based on their location and language settings. Incorrectly configured Hreflang tags could result in the wrong content being shown to the target audience.

        Multilingual Sitemaps

        Search engines rely on sitemaps to understand the structure and content of your website. For a multilingual website, creating separate sitemaps for each language version ensures all pages can be properly indexed by search engines.

        Language-Specific Meta Data

        Meta titles and descriptions help encourage users to click through from the SERPs. Optimising metadata for each language version will help increase the relevancy for the different markets and allow for the targeting of relevant keywords and user queries in that specific language.

        Building Backlinks in Different Regions

        Backlinks act as votes of confidence from other websites. Earning backlinks from high-authority websites in your target regions can help boost your website’s credibility. Depending on the domain/URL structure chosen, your site might not have inherited the shared authority from the main site, making backlink creation even more important. To achieve this, identify local authority sites, develop localised content, and build a targeted backlink strategy.

        Tracking Multilingual Keyword Rankings

        Keyword rankings are another KPI to measure the success of the global expansion. With an advanced SEO tracking tool, you can monitor keyword rankings for your target markets in each language on different search networks to assess the effectiveness of your strategy and identify areas for improvement.

        Conclusion

        The complexities of international SEO and website optimisation can feel overwhelming. But with an experienced international marketing agency like Motion Marketing by your side, you can leverage our global expertise and proven strategies to gain access to new markets, engage targeted audiences, and achieve your international growth goals. The team will guide you through the process, from crafting culturally sensitive content to ensuring technical SEO best practices across all your target regions.

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